Manchester United v Rostov preview: Zlatan Ibrahimovic set to return for Europa League last-16 tie
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 16/03/17 8:54pm
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to return for the second leg of Manchester United's Europa League last-16 clash with FC Rostov on Thursday evening.
Ibrahimovic is available because his three-game ban only applies to domestic fixtures, and the forward's presence offers United manager Jose Mourinho an alternative in attack.
Marcus Rashford started as striker in United's 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-finals at Stamford Bridge on Monday night, despite suffering from a bout of illness.
However, despite training on Wednesday, fellow striker Anthony Martial will not be available for the tie, which is finely balanced after the two teams drew 1-1 in last week's first leg.
The 21-year-old was present as Mourinho's squad prepared for the clash, though he did so away from the main group along with Luke Shaw, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe.
"He [Martial] was injured for the Chelsea match, he couldn't be selected for the Chelsea match," Mourinho said.
"If you are injured for the Monday night game, it's because you are injured for the Tuesday morning training session and if you are injured for the Tuesday morning training session it's not because of (what he does) today that you can be able to play on Thursday. So he is out of my mind.
"I don't think about him. We have the same players in the last match plus Ibrahimovic returning for the Europa League."
There was also no sign of Wayne Rooney at Wednesday's training session after the striker sustained a knock in a training-ground collision with Phil Jones and missed the trip to Chelsea, with Mourinho confirming that the England captain is still receiving treatment.
"He's injured," Mourinho said. "It was some kick in his knee area so he can't even come out to the pitch. He stays inside with the medical department."
United will be missing injured striking duo Martial and Wayne Rooney, but they will have both Ander Herrera and Ibrahimovic available, despite the pair currently serving domestic bans.
And the Red Devils will also be able to welcome back Eric Bailly after the centre back was suspended from their win over St Etienne in the previous round.
Rostov, meanwhile, are without captain Aleksandr Gatskan, who misses the game after getting booked in the first leg.
United have never lost to a Russian side on home soil in European competition, but three of those four games have ended all square (W1).
This will be Rostov's first game on English soil - Russian teams have won just two of their last 26 away games in England in European competition (D7 L17).
Since the start of 2015-16, Russian clubs have faced English teams seven times in European competition and have not won any of those matches (D3 L4).
United are unbeaten in their last 15 European matches played at home (including qualifiers, W12 D3).
Rostov have lost only three of their last 14 games in European competition (including qualifiers W4 D7).
Manchester United have progressed from five of their last seven European ties when they have drawn the first leg, but have been eliminated from the last two (Real Madrid Champions League Last 16 in 2013 and Bayern Munich Champions League quarter final in 2014).
Ibrahimovic has scored five and assisted another two United goals in their Europa League campaign so far. Four of those goals have been scored at Old Trafford.
Ibrahimovic is back in so they'll have plenty of belief and he's probably got the anger out of his system by now.
The pitch was a nightmare at Rostov but I think it could be one of those slow nights where United are sat on a narrow lead before finishing them off.
Paul Pogba has been quiet and question marks remain over his value and his role and I wouldn't be surprised if Mourinho was tempted to leave him out as a reminder of how much he needs to improve.
He tries all this Hollywood stuff in the middle of the park rather than where is matters and he only seems interested in firing his passes into Zlatan, so I wouldn't be surprised is somebody like Marouane Fellaini were to come in.
Unied are Sky Bet's 1/4 favourites for the victory, with Rostov up against odds of 12/1 for a win and 9/2 to knock Mourinho's men out. United head into the second leg as 13/8 favourites to win the Europa League, with Lyon rated their main competition at 11/2, while Rostov are up against odds of 50/1. Ibrahimovic heads the first goalscorer betting at just 5/2, while the visitors' main threats are all 11/1 or bigger, including first-leg leveller Aleksandr Bukharov.